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Michigan lawmakers at odds over redefining clean energy

Dec 8, 2014

Michigan state capitol.
Credit Jimmy Emerson / flickr.com

Lawmakers are at odds over a bill that would change Michigan's definition of renewable energy to include  electricity generated by burning tires, used oil and industrial waste.

The Republican-backed legislation is pending in the Senate after it was approved last week on a mostly party-line vote in the House.

Under the Clean, Renewable and Efficient Energy Act, Michigan utility companies are required to generate 10% of their retail electricity sales from renewable energy sources by 2015. According to the US Department of Energy, these renewable sources include:

Solar Thermal Electric, Photovoltaics, Landfill Gas, Wind, Biomass, Hydroelectric, Geothermal Electric, Municipal Solid Waste, CHP/Cogeneration, Coal-Fired w/CCS, Gasification , Anaerobic Digestion, Tidal Energy, Wave Energy

Governor Rick Snyder and legislators are expected to debate boosting the 10% target next year.

But during their lame-duck session this month, some lawmakers are first pushing for incinerators to be able to call more of their portfolio renewable for purposes of the state's clean energy standard.

Critics say enacting the legislation would be a step backward. According to the Lansing State Journal:

Opponents said incinerators contribute to pollution and put the public's health at risk. They're also dismayed that the legislation would delete the law's definition of a renewable energy resource as a resource that's ultimately derived from solar, water or wind power.

Democratic Rep. Sam Singh of East Lansing said it "makes a mockery of renewable energy and makes a mockery of this Legislature."

-Ari Sandberg, Michigan Radio Newsroom